Last updated: July 17. 2013 6:04PM - 209 Views
A weekly column by West Virginia Senator Ron Stollings (D-Boone)

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Dear Editor:

Recent media reports have included a number of factual inaccuracies and personal attacks about Patriot Coal and our proposal to employees and retirees represented by the United Mine Workers of America. Given that Patriot’s survival and thousands of jobs are at stake, we believe it is important to set the record straight.

Patriot’s proposal to the UMWA does not aim to “throw out” the collective bargaining agreements. In fact, we are only seeking to modify union employees’ wages and benefits so that they are in line with the regional labor markets and with non-represented workers who do the same jobs at other Patriot operations.

Additionally, Patriot is not proposing to eliminate healthcare or pensions for UMWA retirees. Rather, our proposal allows for continued healthcare coverage for union retirees at a level that Patriot can afford. The proposal is expected to make hundreds of millions of dollars available to fund these benefits.

We are not here to defend Peabody Energy or any of the decisions related to the spinoffs that created Patriot Coal. Reasonable questions have been asked — and those questions deserve answers. Patriot has already filed a lawsuit against Peabody to hold them accountable for healthcare obligations assumed in the spin-off.

The Company’s proposal to the UMWA was not driven by corporate greed, immorality or some desire to break longstanding promises, but rather by the recognition that Patriot simply cannot emerge from bankruptcy unless we find a way to be able to pay for our obligations on an ongoing basis. Patriot’s goal is to obtain the significant cost reductions we need to survive. Otherwise, the Company will face the very likely possibility of liquidation, which would result in the loss of thousands of good jobs and have a devastating economic impact for our communities and the families of our employees and retirees.

Bennett K. Hatfield

President and Chief Executive Officer, Patriot Coal

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